Books best when read out of order
September 28, 2016 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Looking for books (and movies I suppose) that are part of a larger series, but that are more enjoyable when read (or watched) out of order.

Obvious example would be Star Wars. The big "Luke, I am your father!" reveal would be a huge anti-climax, as would the "my father has it, I have it, and my SISTER has it".

What I'm NOT looking for is series where you can/should skip certain books/sections because they aren't important/are terrible/whatever. The end game is to still read the whole set.

Origin of this question: I'm currently reading the Foundation series and am reading them in the order they were published, so the first two books (in terms of the book-world timeline) I'll be reading last. I don't know if this is wise, but I figured I'd experience the story in the same order that the author wrote it.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

When you say "out of order", which order are you talking about? Chronological order in the in-story universe? Or publication order of the books/films?
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:28 PM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sort of by accident I've read most of the Feist fantasy novels out of order with respect to the whole series, but keeping trilogies in order. Once I noticed this, and read the final trilogy, I decided to read the first book last. Since they are all written and published in chronological order, my reading will end up roughly like the chronology of your Foundation reading.

I think this qualifies, because as much as I love Feist, I don't think it's really worth reading the whole series start to finish - that would be taking it too seriously :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:32 PM on September 28, 2016

Here's one of several viewing guides for Dr. Who.
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:32 PM on September 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

When you say "out of order", which order are you talking about? Chronological order in the in-story universe? Or publication order of the books/films?

I think mostly story universe timeline order, but maybe whatever order they're "supposed to" be experienced in or are normally experienced in.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 1:33 PM on September 28, 2016

This is super random, but the first Jack Vance book I ever read was Ecce and Old Earth, which is the second book in a series. When I picked it up (from a giveaway box at my HS library) I somehow completely missed the fact that there was a book before this one. So when this book opened with the protagonist walking out of the ocean after apparently drowning someone but with absolutely no explanation of what happened, I was immediately hooked. In retrospect, though, that was obviously not the intent and Vance is not the kind of writer who would use that kind of smash cut anyway.

Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality stories (including the novel Norstrilia) are very often presented in an in-universe chronological manner in collections. This is a neat approach but it does make you sort of think of them in a very specific way so it might be more fun to start at the end and work backwards.

Now that I think about it, I think it would be fun to read Le Guin's "The Tombs of Atuan" first and THEN read "A Wizard of Earthsea" as well. You can kind of enforce your on in media res on a lot of fantasy series.
posted by selfnoise at 1:39 PM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've loved reading the Terry Pratchett Discworld books mostly out of order; I started with the one that sounded the most interesting to me (Monstrous Regiment), and hopped around from there, reading more that featured characters I was interested in, and then filling in the blanks as I ran out of books. If I remember right, even Pratchett himself didn't think you should start the series with the first books he wrote.
posted by redsparkler at 1:42 PM on September 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series. I originally read it in timeline order with (spoiler?) the spaceships landing, instead of publication order with the dragons of just one weyr. I don't know what the best order would be for it, but Ms. MacCaffrey apparently requested they be read in the order of publication (pdf). (I personally only read one of the books - Dragonsblood - her son Todd McCaffrey helped write and was turned off enough to not read any more with him as co/author.)
posted by jillithd at 1:42 PM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" series is best read in publication order, I think.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:00 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Terry Pratchett Discworld Novels. There are a bunch of different characters & storylines & they tend to get their own books but they aren't all written in order, so he'd write a few of the Witches stories, then maybe a Watch/Sam Vimes story then go off & write a Tiffany Aching or some stand alone book like Monstorous Regiment. While I read them in order as they came out as I'm that damn old, if you are starting with the series now pic a character that sounds interesting then read all their books then try another group. I usually suggest "The Watch" series as a good starting place as it tends to give a good background of the world of Discworld that helps with the other books as they tend to be more narrow in scope.
posted by wwax at 2:21 PM on September 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm not sure if you're into anime, but The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is already out f chronological order (as in episode 2 doesn't necessarily follow 1, but can still be watched that way.) it's fun to figure out what order they're meant to be watched in too, if you wanted the opposite way. It's a funny and beautiful show, with some sci-fi elements to it.
posted by buttonedup at 2:23 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Das Kapital is one example; I was instructed to start with the third book, and have heard this advice given to others. There are a number of opinions wrt which order to read the chapters as well.
posted by aspersioncast at 3:00 PM on September 28, 2016

The Sharpe books. Bernard Cornwell went back and filled in some gaps after he became a better writer, so it's better to read them in order published rather than chronological.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:26 PM on September 28, 2016

The Indiana Jones movies are normally viewed out of story order, since the Temple of Doom takes place before Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Those are terrific in any order though, as long as you skip the recent one with Shia Labeefburger in it.

I think Discworld books are probably best read out of order, since that lets you skip the first couple of books where Pratchett was still learning how to write. Once you are addicted to his work you'll probably go back and read them anyway.
posted by w0mbat at 4:56 PM on September 28, 2016

The Vorkosigan books, by Lois McMaster Bujold, are published in a very jumbled order. The first book in both publication and timeline order is "Shards of Honor", but it's also her first book ever, and has a rather underdeveloped voice. "Warrior's Apprentice" (which is the second book to be published and the 3rd one in the timeline) makes a much better introduction to the world.

After "Warrior's Apprentice" they do work best in timeline order, but there are a few adjacent or ancillary books that you can read whenever you want to take a break from Miles' story.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 6:24 PM on September 28, 2016

The Saint Germain series by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is best read in chronological order, not publication order, in my opinion. The series is up to about 28 books or so. Each book is set in a different time and place over about 2000 years (the hero is a vampire, the Comte de Saint Germain, but the books are essentially historical fiction, as he doesn't belong to the "slash and suck" school). So I like starting with Blood Games, set in Nero's Rome, rather than Hotel Transylvania, first pub. 1978, set in Sun King France. Often, though, I tell new readers to choose a time and place that interests them and read it first to see whether they'll like the hero and the writing style. So you could start with Peru/Mexico at the time of the Conquistadores, or France during WW I, or China during the Mongol invasion, or any other. The history is well researched and fascinating. There's also two corollary series, one of which has Out of the House of Life, which has lots of letters from the Comte about his life in Ancient Egypt.
posted by MovableBookLady at 6:53 PM on September 28, 2016

"Fire Upon the Deep" and "Deepness in the Sky" were published in reverse-chronological order. They can be read in either order but I think reverse-chron order is better. The past events are left deeply ambiguous in "Fire," in a way that lends drama and irony to the proceedings. Reading "Deepness" first would unwind much of the tension in "Fire." Similarly, events in "Deepness" have more meaning for those who've read "Fire."
posted by grobstein at 9:13 PM on September 28, 2016

Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy: It's better to read the second book (The Subtle Knife) first, because it gives you enough background to understand the first book (The Golden Compass).

The third book (The Amber Spyglass) is best read last, unless you have an unnatural love for spoilers.
posted by OurOwnMrK at 8:38 AM on September 29, 2016

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